A complete guide on how to install engineered floors, by Wood Floor Warehouse technical experts
Learning how to lay engineered wood flooring will vary depending on the type of engineered flooring installation you are doing. Some will have click systems which can vary while others will have tongue and groove profiles which require gluing or nailing down. Despite this all of the other installation requirements are identical and it is important to ensure they are correct. By following this guide on laying engineered wood flooring you will avoid all of the common mistakes that we have seen many flooring installers make.
- Hand Saw
- Measuring tape
- Knee Pads
- Moisture Metre
- Pull Bar
- Electric Chop Saw (to replace the hand saw)
- 2m Long Spirit Level
Site Requirements for Engineered Wood Flooring
I am sure you have heard some of the horror stories about wood flooring lifting, creaking, splits or large gaps appearing. These problems are caused by site conditions reacting with the flooring and causing unwanted pressure and movement. Before delivering your engineered flooring to the site it is essential to check that your site is suitable, by carrying out a number of important tests. NB. If you are employing a professional installer, these tests can be carried out by your installers. If any of the tests fail, the cause must be investigated and a solution found to eradicate the problem so that the wood flooring can then be delivered to a site that is safe. The important checks are as follows :
- Air humidity must be 45-65% tested using a hygrometer. This humidity is considered normal for UK homes and should be maintained after the installation to avoid problems with your floor lifting.
- Timber based sub-floors must be moisture tested and have a MC% (Moisture content) of 12% or less
- Concrete sub-floors must also be tested for moisture. A MC% (Moisture content) of 12% or less on a prong test, or below 3% using a concrete moisture metre. NB Some metres have different scales so it is very important to read the manufacturers documentation.
- The sub-floor must be level. Check this placing a long straight edge on the sub-floor and use a ruler to identify height variance. There should be no more than 3mm in height variation over a 1m length. Uneven floors must be repaired with a self-leveling compound or plywood.
How To Check Your Engineered Floor
Once you have received your floor, it is important to check one box before acclimatisation. Carefully open one pack and check the colour and finish of the boards is as expected. Rustic grade wood flooring especially can vary greatly depending on the batch and will often look different to pictures online and even individual samples. Ensure that the floor correct before installation as most suppliers will not replace a wood floor once it has been installed. If you are satisfied with the engineered wood, carefully put it back in the box and seal the box up again.
Acclimatising an Engineered Wood Floor
Only when the site conditions are correct and you are satisfied with your flooring, should you then acclimatise wood flooring. This is a very important stage in the installation process as it will have an effect on how well the flooring performs after installation. Acclimatisation enables the moisture levels in the engineered wood flooring to become balanced with the moisture levels in the room. The individual boards will often change shape during this process, expanding or shrinking and often even developing a slight bow along the length of planks. It is important to create this balance prior to installation so that there are no extreme movements once the floor has been installed.
To acclimatise engineered flooring, leave the boxes closed and flat in the room of installation in small piles of 3. Leave at least 4cm between all the piles to ensure that the air can circulate around each box.
It takes 5-7 days to acclimate an engineered wood floor to a room.
If you are acclimatising engineered wood flooring for under-floor heating, we recommend but laying each box individually on the ground. Start the heating system at a low but comfortable heat setting and increase it by 2 deg every 2 days working it gradually up to the highest setting that you are likely to require. Once reached, reduce the heating by 2 deg every 2 days down to the lowest level of heat that is comfortable. Maintain this process for a minimum of 2 weeks to acclimate an engineered floor correctly for under-floor heating.
Installing Engineered Wood Flooring
All existing floor covering must first be removed. Check your sub-floor is structurally sound and level as per the instructions in our site conditions guidelines. An expansion gap for engineered wood flooring is required, and we recommend 10-12mm around the perimeter of your installation. This is inclusive of all obstacles which may prevent your floor from expanding such as walls, door frames, fireplaces and importantly radiator pipes.
The maximum length that we recommend engineered wood flooring can be installed is 7m in any direction. If you do intend to install engineered wood flooring in a longer run, look for areas where you can add expansion gaps such as doorways or archways.
Engineered floors are common in 3 types of construction. Wood fiber based, multiply and 2 ply construction. Wood fiber or HDF based is often manufactured with a click system. 2-ply and multi-ply engineered wood flooring can have a click system or a tongue and groove end. If you engineered floor has a click system, then it must be installed onto an underlay. A T&G (tongue and groove) engineered floor can be installed by nailing it to a timber sub-floor using a flooring nailer, sticking it to a concrete floor using wood to concrete glue, or installed on an underlay and the edges glued using a quality wood PVA wood glue. The most common method is gluing. We recommend putting the glue into the groove and not the tongue. This will give a better spread and a stronger hold.
If you are installing on an underlay, this is often referred to as a floating floor, because your floor is not bonded to the building. Any wood flooring underlay is suitable for timber sub-floors but ensure that your underlay has a moisture barrier if installing onto concrete.
- Use 2-3 open boxes at the same time so to spread the full natural range of colours found in real wood
- Check each individual board before installing it. Naturally imperfect boards are not uncommon, especially in rustic floors.
- Place joints randomly as it often looks better and produces less wastage.
- It's important that an engineered wood floor is not obstructed by anything at the edges. Check our accessories page for products to conceal expansion gaps such as door bars, scotia (beading) and radiator collars.
- Underlay should not be used when nailing or gluing down an engineered wood floor.